March 29, 2019 / 12:52 PM / 3 months ago

Asia Gold-China premiums ease as growth woes dent demand; buying steady elsewhere

* China premiums at $12-14/oz this week vs $14-$16

* Gold prices in India drop to 11-week lows

* Singapore premiums rise to 80-90 cents

By Rajendra Jadhav and Swati Verma

MUMBAI/BENGALURU, March 29 (Reuters) - Gold premiums in China eased this week as worries about a slowdown in the world’s top bullion consumer prompted some customers to hold off on purchases, while a price dip buoyed appetite in other Asian hubs.

In China, premiums of about $12-14 an ounce were being charged over global benchmark prices, a slight reduction from last week when they rose to the highest since March 2017 at $14-$16.

Benchmark spot gold was on course for its first weekly fall in four, having broken below the key $1,300 an ounce level.

“Consumption in China has remained weak,” Samson Li, a Hong Kong-based senior precious metals analyst at Refinitiv GFMS said, attributing the tepid demand to a slowdown in the economy.

“Imports have also not been strong since December.”

The country’s net gold imports in February via main conduit Hong Kong fell 13.6 percent from the previous month.

However, gold premiums in the country have been on an overall upward trend recently, mainly due to gains in the domestic currency driven by hopes of a trade deal between the United States and China, analysts said.

In India, a correction in prices to the lowest in 11 weeks lured retail buyers, although jewellers postponed purchases ahead of the end of the country’s financial year to pay off advance taxes.

“The current price level is very attractive, but due to the year-end, jewellers are not making purchases,” said Mukesh Kothari, director at Mumbai bullion dealer RiddiSiddhi Bullions.

The Indian financial year runs from April to March.

Indian gold futures fell to their lowest since Jan. 7 on Friday.

Dealers in the country charged a premium of up to $1.5 an ounce over official domestic prices, unchanged from last week. The domestic price includes a 10 percent import tax.

“If prices remain at the current level, demand will improve next week. Gudi Padwa is also approaching,” said a Mumbai-based bullion dealer with a gold importing bank, referring to the April 6 festival also known as Ugadi in some parts.

Lower prices also helped lift buying in Singapore, where premiums rose to 80-90 cents an ounce from 60-80 cents previously.

“The price dip this week has sparked physical gold buying from customers looking to take advantage of the dip,” said Gregor Gregersen, CEO of Singapore retailer Silver Bullion Pte Ltd.

In Japan, gold was sold at par with the global benchmark for a fourth straight week as demand remained weak, a Tokyo-based trader said.

In Hong Kong, premiums were unchanged at 50 cents to $1.20 an ounce. (Reporting by K Sathya Narayanan and Arijit Bose in Bengaluru and Rajendra Jadhav in Mumbai; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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